August 26, 2016/ Guest
This is a guest post by Larry Oslund following his incredible effort in the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Century race.
I arrived in Washington, NC the day before the event and helped my good friend (Alvin Maxwell – who is hosting the race), mark the roads, put up signs, and put together his stage and finish line assembly. The finish line assembly was made out of heavy duty triangular radio tower sections. I twisted my back while holding up a section. This was about 7pm. Good thing he had some other people there to help because I was useless after that. I could not bend side to side or even touch my toes without my back spasming! All I could do was sit in the van for a couple hours or try to walk around a stretch and watch them finish. This new injury coupled with me tweaking my knee doing yard work 2 weeks ago upset me greatly. I could not ride in this shape – I could hardly walk! Alvin took me back to his house around 9pm. I still had not even eaten supper yet, so took off and got something quick to eat after popping a couple of Advils.
I got back to the house around 10pm and was feeling a little better once the Advil kicked in. I did some stretching and decided I still needed to prep everything for tomorrow, just in case by some miracle I could ride in the race. So I put my bike back together – inflated both sets of wheels. Charged all the electronics (and yes there is a lot), set up front and rear cameras and batteries, and mixed my fuel and stuck it into the fridge. I laid out my cycling kit, helmet, mirror, shoes, ipod, etc, etc. and finally got to bed around midnight. I prayed healing over my poor body and believed when I woke up I would be fine and could ride. I set my alarm for 5:30 to give me plenty of time to get everything packed up and be able to make it to the event by 6:30am – 1 hour before the start of the Century. I woke up at 4am of course! I lay in bed, slowly moving around to see how my back felt. It was a little stiff, but I could at least touch my toes without wincing! I slowly got up and did about 30 minutes of easy stretching and massaging and felt I would be able to ride. Thank-you Lord! So I got dressed, packed everything in the car and made it to the event around 6:30am.
Since I came alone – my first order of business was to wander around and see if I could cajole someone to hand me my water and fuel bottles as I passed by each lap. Luckily I found Tim and Linda who came to support my friends Dan and Marc (who were riding the 24 hour event). They said it would be no problem helping me, and since Dan and Marc were to start 30 minutes before I start, there should not be any issues with us showing up at the same time. That was really nice of them to help – Thanks Tim and Linda – you guys where a great help! The race is run on a 26 mile loop, so the Century race makes 4 loops. I would start the race with 3-21 oz. bottles: 1 – 2 hour mix of Infinite, 1 – 1 hour mix of Perpetuem, and one water. I would need 1 water at lap 2, 1 water at lap 3, and a water and fuel at lap 4. So we went over what I needed, and practiced me rolling by at 10mph while they pushed a bottle into my quiver. They were pros after 3 tries!
Next order of business – get my race number and pin it to the edge of my quiver and then get the cameras, batteries, light, and Garmin installed hooked up and ready. It was 7am now, and Alvin just let the 12 and 24 hour cyclists off.
Jim and Maria Parker showed up just before that, as they drove here from their house in Lumberton, which is a couple hours away. They were both going to ride the Century as well. We also found out that John and Jacquie Shlitter were there with their team and had brought 3 racers with them riding Encore’s. After the race, we were informed they had their sights on Jim and I! A little creepy, and a little honored at the same time! Haha. I counted 6 or 7 strong recumbent riders, and another 15-20 pretty strong upright riders. It was shaping up to be a fast and hard fought race.
I took off shortly after that for a quick 5-mile warmup and to see if I could really ride the bike at power. I rode out on the course and rode at around 200 watts for a while, which should be above average race pace. It felt pretty good, but the only thing that was difficult was to pull up in the seat and sit up, which is usually how I take the turns at speed. This lets you lean into them a little better. That did not feel too good, so I just made a point not to do it.
Got back from my ride, made a final pit stop, and all of a sudden it was 3 minutes to go. Bummer that Jim and I did not really get to talk strategy. I guess we were just going to have to wing it on the fly.
7:30am was upon us and Alvin started us off (on left) – right picture is of the early bent paceline on the first lap.
Alvin led the racers out of the school parking lot (which made about a 4 tenth of a mile loop. This was the “safe” zone for support, and speed limit was 10mph), and out on the road. He cut us loose after 1 mile. (Our first mile was only 15 mph average. We quickly accelerated to about 27mph. The bents moved to the front and we were all actually working together very nicely, taking 1-2 minute pulls and then rotating out. The uprights stayed behind us and did the same thing. There was a pretty large group in the lead pack to start. I would say at least 25 or more.
The only excitement during the first loop was the slight rain for about 30-40 minutes, and the large dog darting across the road in the front of the lead group around the 10-mile mark. He was obviously after something else other than cyclists!
The nice bent paceline fell apart after about 15 miles and riders moved around a lot. Too bad – I felt if the bent riders could have kept the pace hard for the first hour or more that we might have been able to drop a huge portion of the pack. But that did not happen. The upright riders took the lead for a while and many different people rotated through. The most frustrating thing for me was the pace. Instead of it being pretty constant – every once and a while everyone would just slow back down to 22-23mph for a minute or so. And then there where the “breakaways” – select upright riders would sprint off and get maybe 50-100 yards ahead and ride hard for a while. Then we would catch them – and that is usually when the whole pack slowed down. Kind of like a reward for catching the rider. I am so used to real constant steady state riding that this fluctuation was very frustrating to me. When I took the front I usually forgot I was in the paceline and sometimes would lead for 10-12 minutes. No one seemed to complain. ☺
We came through the first loop in 1:00:03. Not too bad a speed considering the first mile was at 15 mph. That was an average of 25.6mph. The course is really 25.6 miles, so we actually averaged 26.3 for the 24.6 miles after the 1st slow mile. (My average NP for this loop was 159, and based on my video I was only drafting someone about 15 minutes of this first hour). Below is group coming up on start/finish line after first lap. Lens still wet from rain.
The second loop was pretty much more of the same, still a good size group, but maybe down to 15-17. The bents and uprights seemed to mix it up taking pulls and even intermingling in the paceline, which was kind of interesting. I alternated taking longs pulls at the front and playing catchup if I was in the back (as I would always loose time and lag behind in the turns). I did not stick in the paceline or draft very much. I just don’t ride like that much. The second loop ended up taking 59:14, at 25.9 mph, so just a little faster than the first loop. (My average power for this loop was 161, and I was in a draft about 19 minutes of this hour). I led the group though the start/finish this lap.
The third loop, a guy on an upright bike (I think it was Kyle) had a breakaway where he got a good minute ahead of everyone. I TT’d it and lead the chase for nearly 10 minutes, and when we caught him, Jesse was there. Interesting why they did not try and keep the advantage, but it was early. At one early point 8 of us (4 bents and 4 uprights) got away and it looked like we could leave the other 8 or so riders in the dust, but then we slowed up and they caught us. As I said, this was really frustrating to me, all this slowing down for no reason. I guess it is racing strategy. After watching my video of this lap I realized that I pulled the group nearly half the time which wasn’t too smart. We rode the 3rd loop in 1:00:15, which was 25.5 mph (my average power was 153 watts for this loop, and I drafted a total of only 11 minutes for this hour). Picture below is of main group making the left turn into the school parking lot after the 3rd lap. It was starting to get a little warm too for 10:30am. The heat index rose to 109 F after lunch, so it was a hot day!
The forth loop started with me having to slow down more and almost come to a stop. Tim and Linda got a little confused as to what lap we were on and what I needed (I guess we were just so fast, they did not expect it to be the last loop already). Anyway, I was expecting to get my last fuel bottle (rocket jet fuel – secret mixture of course), and only got water, so I had to wait for them to pull it out of the cooler and bring it to me. That put me a little behind the rest of the leaders and I had to work a little harder to catch them. I know they felt horrible about messing up, but no big deal – I don’t think it really impacted the race result. I welcomed the change to go a little harder anyway to catch up! ☺
Now into the last loop, I think we had a core group of about 13 or 14 riders. 6 bents and 7 or 8 uprights. I am sure each one of us was strategizing on what to do and when to do it. Jim rolled up to me part of the way through the last loop and said he thought the perfect time to try a breakaway would be around mile 22.5 right after we turn onto “Old Bath Hwy”. I told him I thought it was too late to be able to get away. (In retrospect – that would have been perfect Jim – Sorry I did not listen to you!) Jim then suggested trying a breakaway around mile 11. I slowly tried to move out to the front before the turn, but could not get around and abandoned that idea. A mile later, I tried again, but actually encouraged all the bents as I passed them to hop on. That did not really work out though and the group just stayed intact. I seemed to lead for long times when in the front, and unless I slowed way down, it was apparent that everyone was content to just follow me. Shortly after that Jesse, Kyle, and Sandor took a small lead and it just kept enlarging until we could not see them. I must have been sleeping or at the back. I should have chased them right away!
(Note: After watching the video of the whole race, I was at the back a lot. Not to rest, but because I had a hard time going around the corners at speed due to my back. So if I wasn’t in the front, I tended to lag behind and then found myself always riding alone for a long time as I slowly “dieseled” my way back to the pack. In Jesse’s race report he mentioned many times that I was at the back, and implied that I was “resting”, and that is what you might expect, but it was not really the case for me. In the last 2 laps, I actually spend only 25 minutes truly in someone else’s draft. I was either out front, or in the back catching up. It’s not that I did not have any energy or was going in the red. It was mostly me trying to manage the back pain to a level that I could ride.)
So now Jesse, Kyle, and Sandor where gone, and frustratingly the group would not try and catch them. Later when talking to Alex he said there was no way he was going to chase down a teammate, which I guess made sense from a “team” standpoint. Still frustrating from someone like me with more of a “TimeTrial” mentality and not many group races under my belt. Anyway, once we pulled up on the highway with about 5 miles to go, we caught Sandor. Alvin drove up to him, had some words with him and then Sandor dropped back. I asked him what was up, and he said Alvin just ejected him from the race and he did not know why (Later Alvin said Sandor had had a flat and sat out the entire 3rd lap, and it was against the rules for him to help anyone since he was not on the same lap. Of course he already helped Jesse and Kyle get away, so damage was done. Truthfully, it does not seem fair to help people like that, but I did not know there was a rule prohibiting it, and have heard of other teams doing the same thing at other events). So now there were still about 10 of us “chasing” Jesse and Kyle, but not really at full speed, as no one was really going all out. Most were probably trying to figure out when to “really” go. Who was going to make the 1st move? We made the right turn off the highway, and then the quick left onto Old Bath. This was the last straight of about 3 miles or so before the 2 sharps turns into the finish. It also had a slight grade right after turning onto it. Once again I found myself way behind the group after the turn. I labored a little extra to catch them going up the hill. I knew I would need to take off soon if I there was ever a chance to catch the leaders. But the clock just kept ticking. Jim had taken the lead and we picked up speed to around 26-27, so it was not slow. We came upon a van blocking our lane, as it was prevented from passing because the lane ahead was filled with slower riders who were riding the 12 or 24 hour event. When it was clear, we passed the van in the left lane and kept going. Another mile quickly flew by, and I knew my time was running out, so I made my move.
And it was not a very fast move – I just slowly passed each of the 10 riders on the right accelerating from 27 up to about 30 mph. A couple of bents fell in behind me as I passed them. Once I got to the front and Jim there was only about a mile and half left to race. I quickly pulled in front of Jim and said let’s go. I heard him say “go Larry”, but I did not really shoot ahead of him, as he caught my wheel. Quite a feat after pulling this train for the last 2+ miles or so. After looking at my rear camera footage, I could see Jim was right behind me (see picture below), and even at 30-31mph, he was still “coasting” a little. I could see him stop pedaling every 3rd or 4th revolution. Drafting is an amazing thing!
To continue – approaching the final turn, I finally saw Jesse and Kyle starting their turn approach. We were still at least 150-200 yards apart. I was going at least 30. I swung way wide and stopped pedaling for about 5-6 seconds. I took the turn as hard I could, but still ending up in the turn lane of the oncoming traffic. There were cars in the oncoming lane, but luckily not in the turn lane. I poured on the power and was quickly pushing more than 500 watts to accelerate up this short grade. I knew the uprights could accelerate much quicker, but no one came by. I just kept pushing as hard as I dared for this 3/8 of a mile or so. I was closing the gap, but not quickly enough. Jesse and Kyle knew the mad train was behind them and were going as hard as they could too. Below: Jesse and Kyle taking the last left turn into the finish.
Pretty soon we had the final dangerous turn into the school parking lot. I took it extremely fast and barely missed running off the pavement on the left and running over the metal feet of the temporary lane partitions that were up on the right. There were also some 12 or 24 hour riders to navigate through. Jesse and Kyle were just right there and I gave the final push to the final 100 yard straight before the finish line. I managed to edge out Kyle maybe 30 feet or less before the finish line. Below shots from my front and rear camera as I passed Kyle.
Here’s the finish line from my rear and then Kyle posing as he crosses. Cute Kyle – I will not try that at 30mph – sorry!
Jesse won by about 5 or 6 seconds. What a finish!!! What a great race and final mad minutes!!!!
My hat off to Jesse for the win, and to Jesse and Kyle for breaking away so early. What a strategy to win. Also to the other bent riders: My buddy Jim Parker of course, as well as Alex, Sandor, and Joe. Everybody was strong and stayed with the main field for the entire ride. I do not know the names of the other upright riders other the “The Kyle”, but it was a good group and they were really strong riders. Again – It was a great race!
My Garmin had me finish at around 3:59:10 with an average speed of 25.7 mph. Not too shabby! We did the final lap in 59:34. I think the top 10 were all within a minute of each other. Alvin said that this was the most exciting finish he has had since he started having this event! (My stats on the last loop were 59:35, for average speed of 25.8. NP was 179. Max power at 499 and max HR at 190bpm. I think that is the highest heart rate I have recorded in a race since I started 2 years ago.) We rode the last 100 miles in 3:52:02 – avg speed: 25.86 mph!
For the entire race. My NP was 176 and average heart rate was 156bpm. Finally tally of drafting versus solo. I spent about 59 total minutes drafting behind other riders (within 2 bike lengths), and 180 minutes riding solo. I guess I need to learn to draft more for these races, but it’s good practice for the solo events!
I would like to once again thank my Lord for giving me this fun diversion to do for His Glory. Also for my wife for continuing to put up with this passion (she calls it my obsession), my good friends and tribe members on the Cruzbike forum, friends on the IRTG forum, and Cruzbike and the Parkers of course. (Special side note: Congrats also to Maria for winning the women’s division of the Century. I think she won it by hours!) A final special thanks to Alvin Maxwell for putting on this event and for all the volunteers that helped make it a great event. Can’t wait until next year Alvin! And a special blessing to Melissa Maxwell and her family on the passing of her father (Phillip Reason) a few days before the race started. Rest in Peace Phillip and God Bless your family.
Here’s links to some videos I have processed of the race:
Full length (4hrs) from front facing camera with comments: https://youtu.be/bRz0IQVeQGo
last 5 minutes from front facing camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMAn6WMD_Io
last 5 minutes from rear facing camera: https://youtu.be/9oY-7FQ4j9E